Governments must do more to protect agriculture and tourism in light of coal’s structural decline

Published: June 16, 2015

In the wake of Monday night’s 4 Corners program, government decision-making about coal mines in NSW and Qld needs to be dramatically overhauled in light of growing evidence that the risks of coal are outweighing its benefit and that its value as a commodity is declining rapidly on a global scale.

Lock the Gate spokesperson, Georgina Woods said, “NSW and Queensland decision-makers have been approving mines that do terrible damage to farmlands, water resources, and public health on the basis that the economic value of coal is worth the cost.

“However, the revelations on Monday night’s 4 Corners program call these assumptions into question, and demand an immediate rethink of State Government priorities.  It is agriculture, tourism and renewable energy, that are the growth industries of the future, not coal mining.

“There is now very serious soul-searching needed by State Governments asked to consider coal mines: why are we allowing flourishing, long-term industries, good farmland and precious water to be placed at risk by coal mining that may no longer be commercially viable in a short time?” she said.

“These questions are urgent. The New Acland mine expansion in southern Queensland and the Warkworth expansion in the Hunter are very controversial and will have dramatic negative consequences. If the economic logic of coal has changed, then Government decisions about coal mines need to change too, and they need to deliver better outcomes for alternative industries and for communities.

"If coal is on the way out, we shouldn't be sacrificing our most precious assets to it.  We need to urgently apply a more equitable approach, where it is no longer a case of coal taking all but where other industries are given a fair go.

“Rio Tinto's Mount Thorley-Warkworth mine expansion will encroach on the town of Bulga in NSW, raising noise and dust, and all but extinguish the local community.

“The highest courts in NSW have rejected the Warkworth mine expansion for the same reasons it is rejected by the community. However, the NSW Government sided with Rio Tinto to subvert the people’s victory in court and change laws to keep the project live.

"In Queensland, the New Acland coal mine has all but wiped the town of Acland off the map, but the Qld Government is now allowing a major expansion of the mine to proceed unchecked.  The expansion will destroy over 1,000 hectares of Strategic Cropping Land in a priority agricultural area and will cause permanent damage to the local farming community.

“The revelations on 4 Corners should prompt an immediate re-prioritisation. There must be balance between the interest of communities and those of the coal industry, especially given the waning of benefits from that polluting industry.

“How will the New South Wales and Queensland Government respond to this shocking change of circumstances?”


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